Shadow Hearts is a console role-playing game developed by Sacnoth and published by Aruze Corp in Japan and in the United States and Europe by Midway Games in 2001. It is the first official game in the Shadow Hearts series and Koudelka is its prequel. Shadow Hearts follows the adventures of Yuri Hyuga, a Harmonixer guided by a mysterious voice in his head. He finds himself thrown into the conflicts prior to World War I where he must save the woman he loves and the world from destruction.
Released in North America only one week before Square Enix's Final Fantasy X, and was not helped by Midway's nominal marketing campaign, Shadow Hearts initially struggled to gain the attention of gamers. The use of 2D pre-rendered backgrounds rather than a full 3D environment drew criticism as well. The game was praised for its original battle system. Shadow Hearts gained a cult following for its quirky use and misuse of historical facts and situations in a form of secret history.
With a linear storyline, random encounters, turn-based battles, and traditional elements such as hit points and magic points, Shadow Hearts plays similarly to other console RPGs. The Judgement Ring, designed to incorporate an element of chance in various outcomes based on the player's skill, is unique to the genre. There are also side-quests and an option for an additional playthrough (or New Game Plus) with the previous game's data saved to allow for completion of the monster library, to attain further collectible items or equipment, and for a statistical side-by-side comparison of the first playthrough.
The player maneuvers a 3D character in the submap, a 2D pre-rendered background representing the environment. Many items are found in the submap, typically in the form of chests, while others are marked with a shining dot. There are also items noticeable only when the player is directly in front of them.
To change locations in Shadow Hearts, the player can choose from a World Map. The world map is a stylized map of Europe and China with locations indicated by dots.
Shadow Hearts uses a turn-based battle system where the player chooses actions from a menu. The list of actions include many basic commands such as Attack, Items, and Escape.
Enemies are encountered randomly and are not visible in the submap. Battle commences in a 3D environment modeled after a section of the current location. The characters and enemies stay in their respective positions and only move from their position when executing an attack. The characters are controlled by the player and the enemies are controlled by the CPU.
The party is made up of three characters and can be changed, with the exception of Yuri, by speaking with the NPC Meiyuan.
Characters can be positioned either in the back row or front row. The back row is suited for characters with lower physical defense and attack while the front row is suited for characters with higher physical defense and attack.
Another aspect of the battle is the character's base statistics. There are the traditional Hit Points (HP) and Magic Points (MP) plus the new Sanity Points (SP). Like many other RPGs, the character's HP will decrease every time they receive damage and their MP decreases when a skill is used. SP decreases every turn and dictate how long a character can last in a battle before they become 'mentally unstable'. When SP decreases to zero, the character automatically goes into a state of berserk and the player will lose control of that character. At the end of every battle all the character’s SP is replenished. Each character gains HP, MP, and SP every time they gain a level and there are many items which help restore lost HP, MP, and SP. There are also items which alleviate status ailments as well as revival items.
The Judgement Ring is a unique element in Shadow Hearts and is used in many aspects of the game including battles, minigames, and even shopping. The success of the characters actions is dependent on the outcome of the Judgment Ring. Essentially, the Judgement Ring is a circle with different colored segments and a rotating needle which is stopped by the player's input. When an action is chosen, the Judgement Ring is presented on the screen. Players then have to watch the rotating needle carefully as it rotates and hit the colored segments.
- Physical Attack Rings possess three Hit Areas coupled with Strike Areas. By hitting all of the hit areas, the character will perform three attacks. If any of the hit areas are missed, the character’s turn will be skipped or their amount of attacks will be reduced depending on which hit area is missed. If the first hit area is missed the turn is automatically skipped. If the player hits the first hit area but misses the subsequent hit areas, the amount of attacks will be reduced.
- Magic Attack/Special Ability Rings differ from Physical Attacks Rings. These rings possess Step Areas and a Modulation Area with a Strike Area. All the step areas must be hit or else the special attack will fail. The modulation area operates like the hit areas of a physical attack.
- Item Rings only possess one Hit Area by itself or coupled with a Strike Area. This depends on the item being used and its effect. Items that cure HP, MP, or SP for a specific amount can be enhanced by strike areas whereas items that cure fully or alleviate status effects don’t require a strike area to enhance the effect.
- Minigame Rings only possess Hit Areas which must all be hit in order to win the minigame (with the exception of the Lottery). The Push Ring is a timed game, which has only one hit area, where the player must make the needle move towards the hit area and keep it there until the time runs out. The Normal Ring has three hit areas and the player must hit all three of them and for as many rotations the game states. Lastly, there is the Lottery. The Lottery has many different colored hit areas each corresponding to a different prize. The player only needs to hit one of the hit areas to be successful.
Every character in Shadow Hearts has their own unique special abilities. These abilities include offensive, restorative and supportive spells. Every character, except for Yuri, will gain their abilities as they gain experience and level up. Yuri, on the other hand, must acquire his Fusions by collecting Soul Energy.
Malice in Shadow Hearts is the vengeance of the enemies that the party has killed. Malice accumulates every time the player finishes a battle. Most enemies give one point of malice while bosses give higher amounts.
Yuri possesses an accessory called a Talisman that can display how much malice has accumulated. It changes color from Dark Blue (lowest) to Red (maximum). Once it has reached the maximum, the door to the dark side opens and the Grim Reaper is summoned to the real world.
The Grim Reaper manifests itself as the one Yuri fears the most. Once this occurs, the party will randomly encounter the Grim Reaper forcing Yuri to fight him alone.
To clear the malice the player must go into the Graveyard in Yuri’s mental realm. Once inside, there are four masks (Sword, Grail, Staff, and Gold) that will allow the player to fight a monster to clear the malice. This monster is a manifestation of the accumulated malice. Depending on the amount of malice, the monster will be different.
Shopping in Shadow Hearts is similar to most RPGs. The player can buy items or equipment using the in-game currency, Cash. The element that sets shopping in Shadow Hearts apart from other games is the use of the Judgment Ring. Throughout the course of the game, the player can collect certain Guild Cards to attain different ranks. Once the player has a card, they are automatically given an option to get a discount when buying or a price rise when selling. By collecting different guild cards, the player can receive different privileges.
Once the player chooses to receive a discount a ring with three Hit Areas is presented. To be successful, all three hit areas must be hit. Depending on the item being bought or sold, the size of the hit areas and the speed of the needle changes. When the player aims for higher discount or price raise rates, they must complete individual rings for each level.
- Yuri Volte Hyuga (Urmnaf "Uru" Bort Hyuga, ウルムナフ・ボルテ・ヒューガ, Urumunafu Borute Hyūga in the Japanese version) is the main protagonist of the game and was born in Katsuragi in 1889 to a Japanese father, Ben Hyuga, and a Russian mother, Anne. An anti-hero, Yuri speaks his mind, is often impolite, and is reluctant to accept his special abilities. Indeed, he is called "Rude Hero" before his name is revealed to the player. At the beginning of the game it is clear that his actions are influenced by a mysterious voice. Although he would rather ignore the voice, he obeys its commands mainly for the thrill of fighting monsters. Once he meets Alice Elliot his attitude begins to change, although he remains troubled about his fusion powers. His desire to change is fueled further when he discovers Alice had sacrificed her soul to save him. He is additionally motivated by the memory of his father, who fought hard and died protecting the world. A Harmonixer, he possesses the powers of Fusion, which he inherited from his father. These powers were awakened in his childhood when zombies attacked his home, and Yuri's mother died trying to protect him. By fusing into elemental and non-elemental demons, Yuri gains new abilities in battles.When he is not using his fusions, he fights with knuckle-mounted blades.
- Alice Elliot (アリス・エリオット, Arisu Eriotto in the Japanese version), born in 1892 to Father Morris Elliot, an English Priest, was raised in London, England. Hearing supernatural voices in her early childhood, Alice later became an exorcist and together with her father they performed exorcisms. When Alice was saved by Yuri, she was unsure what to think of him. But after spending more time with him and seeing him risk his own life to defeat Dehuai, she grew attached to him. After Yuri attempted to fuse with Seraphic Radiance, Alice chose to use her own soul to save him. In battle, Alice has the ability to do White Magic allowing her to heal party members and damage enemies. Alice is the best healer in the game, and books are her primary weapons.
- Li Zhuzhen ("劉朱震", Liú Zhūzhèn in the Japanese version) was born in China and is over 60 years old. He is a sage who was taught by Master Xifa along with his peer Dehuai, he proceeds his name with "Ruler of the Nine Heavens, Earth Sage" when meeting people formally. 15 years prior to Shadow Hearts, Ben Hyuga helped him when he was being harassed by Dehuai’s underlings. As a result, Zhuzhen helped Hyuga to stop Dehuai from succeeding in the Demon's Gate Invocation. He joins with Yuri and Alice in the village of Zhaoyang.In battle, his special skills are Yin and Yang, giving him the ability to heal allies or damage enemies .His primary weapons are staves.
- Margarete Gertrude Zelle ("マルガリータ・G・ツェル", Marugarīta G. Tseru in the Japanese version), codenamed "Malkovich," is a world famous spy, and she met Yuri and Alice during her mission in Fengtian. Her mission was to prevent the Japanese soldiers from leaving Fengtian by bombing the railway but Yuri and Alice get caught in the explosion, too. Margarete uses Secret Weapons during battle to deal damage to enemies. She receives her weapons by using her cell phone to call for aid. Her weapons are guns.
- Keith Valentine ("キース・ヴァレンティーナ", Kīsu Varentīna) is a vampire believed to be over 400 years old. He occupies Blue Castle, the home of his ancestors, and had been asleep for a long time before he met Yuri and party. Bored, Keith decides to join Alice and Yuri. Keith performs Rituals during battle allowing him to heal himself while simultaneously dealing damage to enemies. His weapons are swords. Keith also appreciates other types of rituals and powers.
- Halley Brancket ("ハリー・プランケット", Harī Puranketto) is the son of Koudelka Iasant, the main character of Koudelka. He was separated from his mother in London when she was taken away in a witch hunt. A big brother to the orphans in London, Halley is aided by Yuri to rescue kids at an orphanage. There they discover Jack's plan to use the Émigré Manuscript to revive Jack's mother. Halley's surname was incorrectly romanised for the English language release. Brancket should have been written as Plunkett (the katakana ブ (bu) and プ (pu) having been confused), the last name of his father, Edward. Like his mother, Halley has the ability of ESP. However, he has difficulty controlling his powers. Halley uses slingshots in battle.
Non Playable CharactersEdit
- Albert Simon (アルバート・サイモン, Arubāto Saimon) is the main antagonist of the game and very little is known about him. At the beginning, he uses his past teacher's identity, Roger Bacon, to deceive everyone. His birthplace and date is unknown but it is believed that he might be older than Roger Bacon. In order for his plans to work he must use Alice's powers. It was revealed in Shadow Hearts: Covenant that he is residing as a spirit in Yuri's soul. Furthermore, he reveals that the events of Shadow Hearts were a misguided attempt to stop Sapientes Gladio and Rasputin (the main antagonists in Shadow Hearts: Covenant) from destroying the world. Simon helps Yuri make a pact with the demon Amon so that Yuri can defeat Rasputin.
- Roger Bacon (ロジャー・ベーコン, Rojā Bēkon) is an alchemist who discovered a way to keep himself alive for over 600 years. He was present in Koudelka and aided Koudelka Iasant in Nemeton Monastery.Roger: In Shadow Hearts the party finally meets Roger and he reveals Albert Simon's real identity and goals to them.
- Dehuai (Chinese: 徳壊, Déhuài) was a student of Master Xifa along with Zhuzhen. 15 years prior to Shadow Hearts, he tried to perform the Demon’s Gate Invocation to summon a god, the Seraphic Radiance; a being of pure power who is neither physical nor spiritual and destroys all in its path. Dehuai planned on destroying Japan and at the same time ruling Shanghai from atop Kuihai Tower, which houses his Spirit Machine. He was stopped by Ben Hyuga and most of his power was eradicated. But over the years he regained his powers in order to attempt the ritual again, this time using Alice as a key. He acquires the votive pictures representing the Gods of the Four Directions (Red Phoenix, Black Tortoise, Blue Dragon and White Tiger) over the course of Yuri's journey, which he uses to power the Spirit Machine. It is revealed at the top of the tower that Dehuai was actually planning the Reverse Demon's Gate Invocation, in order to obtain the power of a god for himself. However, this time Yuri was able to stop him and at the same rescued Alice. Dehuai's end marks the halfway point of the game when the events switch from Asia to Europe.
- Wugui (Chinese: 舞鬼, Wǔguǐ) is Dehuai's head lackey. Appearing as a thin, sullen-looking man in a red outfit, little is known about him aside from his overtly vicious nature. He is seen fighting Ben Hyuga in a flashback sequence in Shanghai, with Hyuga protecting Zhuzhen from Wugui's sadism. Following the encounter at Wuhan, "Bacon" appears and seemingly teleports away with Wugui, who is not seen again during the main game. It is revealed through a side area, Kowloon Fortress, that Wugui had his own interests in the occult, since the area is full of evidence of terrible, bloody experiments. It is assumed this brought him some unwanted attention from "Bacon", who also occasionally pestered his boss. Simon, still under the guise of Roger Bacon, apparently performed some ritual to turn Wugui (whether or not it was against his will is unknown) into a "Cursed Puppet". Wugui is still conscious in this state and yells in extreme pain, begging for death. After a fight with Yuri and his companions, Wugui is finally put to rest permanently, and "Bacon" merely departs. Wugui's main special attack every time he is faced is a move called "Game of Death", it is likely a reference to the Bruce Lee movie of the same name.
- Yoshiko Kawashima, also known as Lieutenant Colonel Kawashima. (Kawashima-chūsa, 川島中佐) was sent in to investigate the incident in the train at the Trans-Siberian Railroad and pursues Alice to discover how the men escorting her were slaughtered. It is revealed that Kawashima planned Alice’s capture and was sending her as a gift to her father. She was also planning to take Alice because she knew Dehuai required her to destroy Japan. She used her power and status to make sure nobody could defeat Japan. Because of this, Kawashima does not trust people very easily and will eliminate anyone who, to her eyes, are not trustworthy. Kawashima never reported back any details of her actions to the Capitol. This caused an investigation to be done and coupled with her father deserting her, eventually led to her execution.
- Koudelka Iasant (クーデルカ・イアサント, Kūderuka Iasanto) plays a small role in Shadow Hearts. She is the mother of Halley but was separated from him due to a witch hunt. Roger Bacon reveals to the party that Koudelka is the opposite, in terms of her power, of Alice and could replace Alice as a key for his goal. Although unknown at first, it is revealed later in the game that Koudelka is the source of the mysterious voice who has been guiding Yuri on his various quests, including the one seen at the game's beginning that eventually led him to save Alice from Roger Bacon.
- Ben Hyuga (日向甚八郎, Jinpachiro Hyuga, Hyūga Jinpachirō in the Japanese version), also (Colonel Hyuga, 日向大佐,Hyūga-taisa), was the father of Yuri and the person who Yuri inherited his Fusion abilities from. He died after attempting to use his fusion powers to forcefully merge with a god, summoned by Deuhai, but this fusion cost him his life. He protects Yuri which is revealed by Koudelka when she told Yuri that he was being protected by a being that is even feared by Albert. Eventually Yuri was able to contact his father's spirit and battle him to acquire the fusion of Seraphic Radiance. He is playable in a flashback when Zhuzhen Liu tells Alice the story of how he saved him.
- Master Xifa is an ancient Adept who is the teacher of both Zhuzhen Liu, and Dehuai. He lives alone, with only one servant, a transformed cat named Xiaofang, sealed in an ancient temple in Wuhan, in which several trials must be undertaken to reach the center. He kept the votive of the White Tiger hidden with him in his chamber so no one could use it for evil ambitions, unfortunately, just as Yuri and company get to his chamber, Dehuai is able to possess Xiaofang, then materialize himself in order to abduct both Alice and the final votive picture for his plan. After Dehuai collapses part of the temple, Master Xifa uses his remaining power to teleport Yuri and company out of the chamber.
Shadow Hearts takes place in an alternate reality of the real world in the year 1913. The major areas that are visited include many real locations in China and Europe. Here is a list of the different locations found in Shadow Hearts:
Shadow Hearts moves considerably ahead of Koudelka and starts in late 1913 on a branch of the Trans-Siberian Railroad in Manchuria. The game begins with Yuri hearing a voice in his head telling him to rescue a girl named Alice Elliot, whose priest father was recently murdered in a most brutal fashion in Rouen, France. After an English gentleman by the name of Roger Bacon attempts to abduct Alice from the Japanese army himself, Yuri saves her, and starts a quest through China, and eventually Europe, to discover Alice's importance, Bacon's intent, the identity of the mysterious voice, and his own relevance.
Throughout their journey in China they meet Master Liu Zhuzhen, an adept. They also meet Margarete Gertude Zelle, an English spy who is trying to hinder the Japanese invasion of Shanghai. Along the journey they discover that Dehuai, a warlock, is behind all of the demonic happenings that they have encountered so far. Dehuai reveals his plans - to perform the Demon Gate Invocation to summon the Seraphic Radiance, a powerful entity to destroy Shanghai. He kidnaps Alice for this and the group faces him off at Kuihai Tower. The group manages to defeat Dehuai but is unable to stop the summoning of the Seraphic Radiance. In the end, Yuri and the group are separated.
The second part of the journey takes part in Europe. Alice and the gang continue on their search for Yuri. They are eventually reunited while meeting new friends along the way which includes, Halley, the son of Koudelka and Keith Valentine, a vampire. A shocking truth is revealed as they continue the journey - the man who named himself Roger Bacon is actually Albert Simon, a disciple of the real Roger Bacon. They also discover that Albert's true intention is to raise the Neameeto Float, which is a beacon capable of drawing God to Earth so that it can cleanse the world. He was originally attempting to capture Alice to raise the float, but then changes tack and captures Koudelka instead, and raises the float with her power. The group is teleported to the float by Roger Bacon, and they fight their way through it to find Albert at the pinnacle, where they engage him in battle. He repents for his misdeeds and uses the last of his power to send Yuri and company to intercept God before it can reach Earth. The group manages to destroy God and the world is saved.
There are two endings to Shadow Hearts: the "good" and the "bad" ending. The good ending occurs when Yuri fights alongside Alice in his mental realm, the Graveyard, and defeats Atman, the protector of the Four Masks. The "bad" ending occurs when Alice fights an impossible battle against Atman and "dies" in the dream.
The difference between the two endings is only seen when the game credits are rolling after one has completed the game. Alice and Yuri are seen sleeping on a train back to her hometown, Zurich. In the good ending, Alice wakes up on the train after a while. In the bad ending, Alice does not wake up since she has sacrificed her soul to Atman to protect Yuri's life. Shadow Hearts' sequel, Shadow Hearts: Covenant, dictates that the bad ending of this game is canon.
The brainchild of Matsuzo Itakura (art director of Koudelka), who succeeded Hiroki Kikuta as the president of Sacnoth, this game plays more similarly to standard console RPGs than Koudelka yet features some innovations that set it apart. It marks the introduction of the "Judgment Ring" system as well as Sanity Points, a somewhat Lovecraftian addition.
With the re-relase of the game in Japan, it was accompanied by a DVD containing: promotional videos, an introduction to the game and the characters, and an interview with the staff and development team.
Shadow Hearts only features vocals during certain cut scenes and full motion videos. Most of the game consists of written dialogue accompanied by emoticons to display emotions or reactions. In the North American and PAL versions, some of the battle cries for spells and item use remain in their original Japanese.
The voice actors in the North American and PAL versions of the game are as follows:
- Eric Stuart — Yuri Hyuga
- Veronica Taylor — Alice Elliot
- Madeleine Blaustein — Margarete G. Zelle
- Scott Rayow — Zhuzhen Liu
- Ted Lewis — Keith Valentine
- Jimmy Zoppi — Roger Bacon
The voice actors in the original Japanese version of the game are as follows:
- Hiroki Takahashi — Urmnaf "Uru" Bort Hyuga
- Chie Sawaguchi — Alice Eliot
- Katsuya Gashuin — Roger Bacon
- Kenji Nojima — Keith Valentine
- Mie Sonozaki — Margareta G. Zelle
- Kenichirō Sanada — Liu Zhuzhen
- Daisuke Gōri — Albert Simon
- Hiroko Kasahara — Koudelka Iasant
- Hideyuki Tanaka — Jinpachiro Hyuga
- Satoshi Hino — Halley Brancket
- Kiyoshi Kawakubo — Dehuai
- Manami Nakayama — Yoshiko Kawashima
The Shadow Hearts OST of was released as two Compact Discs under the name of Shadow Hearts Original Soundtracks Plus1 by Scitron in Japan on July 18, 2001. It was composed and arranged by Yoshitaka Hirota and Yasunori Mitsuda and recorded at TwinTail Studios. Whilst this was Hirota's first major video game music compositional work, Mitsuda is a veteran video game music composer having previously worked on Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross and Xenogears.
The OST packaging was unique in that it was released as a small hardcover book with the CDs contained in cardboard sleeves serving as the first and last pages. The soundtrack was later re-released on January 19, 2005 in a regular plastic CD case and having an altered cover. A review of the soundtrack along with some samples can be viewedhere.
The ending theme, titled Ending Theme ~ Shadow Hearts, was composed by Hirota and the lyrics were written by James H. Woan. It features vocals by Hiroko Kasahara and Kyoko Kishikawa.
The 'plus1' in the OST title refers to a bonus track titled Bonus Track ~ true voice. The track was composed by Hirota with lyrics written by Kishikawa who also performed the song.
Shadow Hearts is considered unique by its fans for its quirky style. The setting is an alternate Earth where monsters and mystical forces seem common. Throughout the game, the seriousness of some of the game's subject matter and the horror elements clash with its sense of humor.
Reviews were somewhat mixed, some gave the game a low score claiming that it lacked originality, while others praised it for being original and innovative. 
- Official Shadow Hearts site (Japanese)